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managing Decisions…

by | Jan 26, 2021 | Cat Stevens, Decisions, manage

I have written before about my best friend in Junior High and High School being Jewish.  It was very clear to both of us that we really did not fit in, and at least I had only to stick it out for 5 years before I got out of East Texas.  He had been raised there, his Dad a prominent Doctor in the community.  His mom was a WICKED smart woman that I Decided to try and spend more time around, as her perspectives always managed to point out things I had never considered. They were all also active in the local Democratic party, which is why I was debating him in World History the Tuesday before Election Day – his McGovern to my… you know where this is going… 

While my debate skills were somewhat inherent, I hadn’t really honed them, and to be entirely honest, he cleaned my clock.  He was very up to speed on policies, and I had trouble trying to defend Tricky Dick. I had great pleasure in the Decision that was made only a few months later for “4 more years”.  And while politics now is a huge polarizing force, we were still good friends, and simply ribbed each other through the remaining years, realizing we had way more in common than different.  We got in trouble often, but it was an easy early Decision to be friends, and one that has persisted even now into adulthood. 

So where do you go after a debut Number 2 song and album?  If you know the ups and downs of both music and life, you can guess… and like most people, you probably have no idea that this next album even was put out.  Cat’s management had him on the treadmill to be a real “pop” star, racing around Britain on shows and doing concerts He was trying to produce a great follow up album, when tragedy struck.  This year we have been reminded that disease is real, along with it’s impact, and it is hard to believe that only 50 years ago, Tuberculosis/TB was still a real threat.  With his exhaustion, he caught it, suffered a collapsed lung, and was told to spend a year in bed… 

… and I have to think that the lyrics to Matthew and Son came to his mind in a very different way.  If he wanted to enjoy his life IF he lived, he would have to Decide who he really wanted to be… not someone else, and certainly not the pop star “they” were crafting.  He was able to get out of his contract, and started to write very different songs, along with Deciding to get a completely different sound.  His new manager suggested that they should mix the album differently – to take advantage of the emerging growth of true “hi-fidelity” systems that had MUCH better phonograph needles.  Just that difference meant they could mix in much better bass, and focus much more on stereo imagery in the recording. 

Those decisions paid off – not immediately.  Mona Bone Jakon came out in 1971 and mostly was met with  ‘wait… what?’  It was clearly not the old pop star, but the sound was so different, and it demanded you Decide to give this “new” artist a fresh listen.  It was later recognized as a masterpiece, but for now, it managed to change the trajectory and prepared the world for the next 4 records which would literally change music… and Cat… again. If you can listen to the whole album, you will hear Peter Gabriel as a backup artist, and the sound is stunningly beautiful.

Decisions require all different kinds of inputs, and that means you need to manage to have disparate voices around you, some of which will cause trouble – all the time.  It is not a convenient thing to do only occasionally – it has to be built into your own process.  As a natural skeptic, it was easy for me then, and still, to realize that there is a voice that is missing, a perspective that needs to be sought out.  In the current “winner-take-all “ environment, it is what causes me to bristle the fastest.  Easy answers are neither.  And if you think they are, your Decisions will eventually be undone by those other voices you are ignoring. 

This particular track was one of the first he wrote when he was admitted to the hospital.  A jarring result going from the spotlight to a bare room in an isolation ward, and told he literally had a week or less to live.  The lyrics are raw, having him think about his life, and reflect on the Decisions he had made to this point.  Many people I am working with are on this journey also – thinking about their own management of self and others.  As you listen to the “new” Cat, reflect on what it would take to shake your own foundation, and to assess where you want to head next.  I would encourage it… and to think about Decisions to get yourself into, as John Lewis recently reminded us, a good kind of … Trouble. 

Trouble
Oh trouble set me free
I have seen your face
And it’s too much too much for me

Trouble
Oh trouble can’t you see
You’re eating my heart away
And there’s nothing much left of me

I’ve drunk your wine
You have made your world mine
So won’t you be fair
So won’t you be fair

I don’t want no more of you
So won’t you be kind to me
Just let me go where
I’ll have to go there

Trouble
Oh trouble move away
I have seen your face
And it’s too much for me today

Trouble
Oh trouble can’t you see
You have made me a wreck
Now won’t you leave me in my misery

I’ve seen your eyes
And I can see death’s disguise
Hangin’ on me
Hangin’ on me

I’m beat, I’m torn
Shattered and tossed and worn
Too shocking to see
Too shocking to see

Trouble
Oh trouble move from me
I have paid my debt
Now won’t you leave me in my misery

Trouble
Oh trouble please be kind
I don’t want no fight
And I haven’t got a lot of time

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